The Need for Unique Bar Experience for the Shenzhen Area
Bars and Pubs are not necessarily a new thing to Shenzhen and if you are going to start a business in the alcohol industry, you will quickly find that your competition is a vast amount of locations within 5 square miles – all competing for the same customers and trying to find their niche audience. That said, not just any bar can survive in Shenzhen without a unique niche. Luckily, TAPS has a unique culture that combines a brewery with fresh in – house roasted coffee and a chef-driven kitchen. This brings not only a location that serves home-brewed drinks but has a very diverse food menu and possibly some of the best coffee you’ll ever try in the Futian area.
From Home Brewer to Chief of Staff
Gavin has had a knack for making his own custom beers and had a great hobby of doing so. Actually, it was so great a hobby that he entered one of his creations into a brewing competition held by Pivotal Beer in 2014. Not thinking too much about it, he then went to Australia to look into starting a Vineyard when he got the news that he had won 1st place in the brewing competition. Gavin, like many who live in China, posted the news on his WeChat events, which sparked the interest of a business-minded friend – Daniel. Daniel met Gavin in a restaurant and had become a Wechat friend but was not necessarily a close associate. That said, Daniel still knew to jump on the talent he saw and make a business out of this award winning beer. Daniel contacted Gavin about starting a brewery and the idea was thought through as Gavin tried to work out his vineyard idea in Australia.
After taking over the ideas for some time, Gavin would return to China and with Daniel, begin renovating a villa in Xiao Mei Sha where they would start brewing small batches of beer and working on the recipe while securing the first location of TAPS in Nanshan near All City Mall. The 2nd location to open in 2016 would be their ChongQuing location, and now they have opened up a 3rd location in Coco Park.
Crowd from TAPS CoCo Park Opening Party
TAPS has four elements that work towards their success and makes them different from just any bar or brewery:
The TAPS Brewery – Award Winning Beer Brewed In House in Shenzhen
What started the whole idea of TAPS was the award winning beer recipe brewed by Gavin in his home brewery. Combined with the production and implementation skills of Daniel, TAPS was born. Gavin keeps the recipe fairly simple with the 4 base ingredients used to brew a beer and then adds a unique twist of herbs and spices that give it the edge it needs to stand apart from the rest. The coco park location has become by far, one of the largest brewers in the Shenzhen area with multiple TAPS from their oversized bar area. On top of having a beefy production house kicking out constant batches of their in-house draft, they are also the first brewery in Shenzhen to bring in a traditional style bottling machine to bottle and sell their beer all from in-house. That said, customers are free to buy TAPS beer either by case or bottle only from TAPS locations.
TAPS is all about TAPS
Another element of TAPS is the fact that they are quite possibly the only bar I’ve heard of that pour their cocktails from a tap. Along with the in-house draft, TAPS offers 26 beers on tap as well as 8 cocktails. This means that if you ever find yourself being a bartender at TAPS, you would enjoy a ton of a lot less stress from your average bartender who has to mix up the cocktails himself and keep consistent with the flavors.
“I actually wanted 50 TAPS but the wall is just not big enough – we needed to have room for the kitchen. “ – Gavin
If you bring a group to TAPS and order cocktails, you will find that the consistency is constant and that doesn’t come easy. Working closely with the chemistry and unique ingredients would be managers Barret and Silvan. If you have any bartending or mixing experience, you know that a cocktail can be a great experience or a train wreck depending on the ingredients and the chemistry and they are determined to keep the tests coming in order to offer new cocktail ideas that can be poured from a tap offering consistency and speed. It’s not just a fast pour but you are guaranteed to taste the flavor of a freshly mixed cocktail. Many people who order a cocktail will overlook the fact that on the glass it says that it’s from the tap, and after drinking it will be shocked to find out that it was not mixed on the spot. That said, in the end, you have a cocktail without the long wait unless you’re a large party.
“I see myself as a mixologist, but I couldn’t have done it without Barret giving ideas as well as the ideas of Gavin who will stumble over recipes at 3AM so its teamwork in the end. “ Silvan
Brewery or Gastro Pub? A Look into TAPS Kitchen
TAPS had a beginning that definitely focused on how brewed beer, but as they began to grow – they started to put the same focused excellence into their coffee and their food. The Executive chef, Francis, has worked all around the world as well as different parts of China. Originally from Hong Kong, he has been cooking 15 years starting in Beijing and eventually going for a degree in South Africa. Afterward, he worked at the Ritz Carlton in America and would later go to Shanghai, Hong Kong and eventually make his way to Shenzhen where he would eventually lead the kitchen at TAPS.
“I think TAPS philosophy is to use quality ingredients and make something out of it. We do the same with food. I want to incorporate as many ingredients in-house as possible.” – FRANCIS , Head Chef
Francis sees that the food menu is a direct reflection of the drink menu. No one wants to go to a bar and get drunk off of one drink; neither should they get full off of one meal. That said, TAPS focuses its dishes not only on house ingredients but also with the thought of giving its customers the ability to try multiple dishes in smaller portions. In the end, it’s still about the drinks and making sure the food is complementing the drink menu. As of March 5th, TAPS has had their menu redone and broken up into Appetizers, Snacks, Desserts, Tacos and Grill.
Must Try Dishes from TAPS’ Kitchen
Talking about small dishes, TAPS has a large range of small appetizer-like dishes to try from including a menu of Skewers. Skewers (or kabobs) are a big part of the Chinese food culture. The skewers of TAPS will combine Thai curry, chili sauces, and some base home ingredients. This sets them apart from the salt, pepper, and cumin you usually taste in most skewer shops in China.
Many first time visitors, who have not researched into the depth of TAPS’ kitchen, will simply order a batch of fries to munch on while they enjoy their time there. That said, French fries are the #1 seller at TAPS but – in my opinion – this comes with the lack of understanding that the Chef of TAPS puts a lot of energy into a house made food menu with fresh ingredients and flavor packing taste. One such dish which is a must try is their “TAPS Fried Chicken”. This is still at the top of the menu as a best seller. It combines Korean fried chicken pieces with the traditional Sichuan-style fried chilis and spices. It packs a big flavor (and a big kick).
Fried Chicken by TAPS’ KITCHEN
Loaded nachos are another one the best sellers (besides Fries). If you’re like me and have been around local Chinese restaurants and even some western ones which take stabs at Nachos. You will usually find that something is missing or totally misunderstood. A restaurant may mistake sour cream for whipped cream (this has happened to me in Shenzhen), or just give you chips covered in cheese and call it “loaded”. At TAPS, they know the meaning of “Loaded Nachos” – no confusion here. The loaded Nachos are a combination of corn chips, smoked pork, cheese, salsa, guacamole and sour cream (real sour cream). One thing to note about these tortilla chips are house-made by real corn (not just the powder) and are combined with house made purple potato chips. FYI, if your looking for a more traditional nacho with the traditional appeal (the beans, lettuce, etc), go for the chicken nachos.
Loaded Nachos by TAPS
TAPS also has a very large taco menu featuring traditional Mexican tacos like “Al Pastor.” These tacos consist of pork marinated in adobo sauce and grilled on a charcoal grill. These tacos have a bit of a twist and are made with pork neck instead of your usual mixed pork meat. The Chili Garlic Shrimp Tacos are another bestseller. These are made very similar to a tapas type of spring onion blended tacos with a house-made chili sauce. It packs a strong kick if you love spice; otherwise, be warned.
“Beers are made with passion and patience, if I did something different with the food, it would drag down the overall experience. “ – FRANCIS, Head Chef
Shenzhen’s Largest Coffee Roasterie Lead by Doug
Doug Lycett, TAPS’ coffee manager, has been a barista since 2013. He started roasting his own coffee in his home in Florida and took to learning more about roasting by studying coffee education while working as a coffee manager. In the midst of studying coffee, he met with a company that brought him to Asia where he got his instructors license and earned his SCAA roaster level II as well as his Barista and Coffee Taster Level II certifications while living in Thailand. After this achievement, he then worked as a barista and roasting instructor before being offered the job as Director of Roasting at TAPS.
Piccolo (Latte) by TAPS
At TAPS, the focus is specialty coffee and not commercial grade. To achieve the “specialty coffee” bragging rights, this means the coffee is graded by a certified Q grader (or Quality Grader) before being purchased. TAPS takes this to another level by paying close attention to the full process of roasting and brewing They do this by curating specific roast profiles for every coffee through sample roasting and testing. By paying close attention to the total time and temperatures applied at different times during the roast, they aim to highlight key flavor characteristics that each coffee can offer. as well as pay close attention to the temperatures and timing to make sure that the end product is still as high a quality as the initial purchase. Once a roast profile has been perfected, the coffee is handed off to the baristas. The baristas control quality by using their trained palates and tools to create the best possible beverage they can. By using scales, paying attention to brew ratios and grind size, they can assure quality and consistency of the final product. Of course, it all comes down to taste. Every pour-over or drip brewed coffee will have a taste check by the barista to ensure that the taste meets their standards. Espressos are tested and quality checked every five to ten extractions to ensure that the quality is consistent as the first shot of the day. They do this by changing the brewing parameters such as grind size, coffee dose, beverage yield, and time.
“even the smallest grind adjustment can give a huge change in flavor” – DOUG, Coffee Manager
TAPS uses an Australia style espresso menu featuring a Piccolo latte, Flat White, and an Australian style cappuccino. The Piccolo is one shot espresso and steamed milk about 90ml and is my personal favorite. The flat white is made from Double Espresso and milk and has .5 cm of foam and latte art. This drink is about 150ml and was invented in Australia. The cappuccino is 200ml with 2cm of foam and dusted with cocoa before being topped with latte art. This drink is to be consumed in the morning as a breakfast treat.
“Just like our beer we like to source the ingredients, roast it ourselves and hand brew all our coffees” – DOUG, Coffee Manager
Changing the Way Coffee is Perceived
Shenzhen China has a strong growing coffee culture that can be seen in the multiple café openings that are happening all around the city. In almost every corner, there is a themed café but most are using a commercialized low-grade coffee smothered in sweet ingredients instead of catering to a more educated coffee crowd. That said, TAPS is pursuing its QS license so that their house-made coffee can eventually be wholesaled to other cafés. This will give other cafés the right to advertise locally brewed coffee coming
from the heart of Shenzhen China.
Bringing a New Elevation to Shenzhen’s Foodie Culture
TAPS three locations have seen a unique offset between expats and locals who are sharing in the ever-growing foodie and beer geek movement in Shenzhen. The Nanshan and Chongqing locations will have 95% of its customers be local Chinese whereas the new Coco Park location is seeing a 60/40 ratio of Locals/Expats. I believe this says a lot – considering TAPS is foreign owned and ran yet can still bring a strong appeal to the local population. This is usually hard to do for any foreign pub, bar or restaurant but shows that their model is working well at appealing to the local community and bring a forerunner educating new foodies and enthusiasts. TAPS also makes a push to educate the local community with multiple instructional and educational events each month.
Chinese and Pinyin Name:
Place Address (English/Pinyin):
Shop 136, Branch 5th Rd, Junhui Xintian Garden, Nanshan, Shenzhen (Behind AllCity North)
Taps Brewpub’s Website
+86 (755) 32851501